The Alabama state tourism agency has installed ten billboards around New Orleans and south Mississippi, inviting them to celebrate “America’s original Mardi Gras.” They don’t specifically say Mobile, but mileage distance points in that direction. Louisiana Mardi Gras expert Arthur Hardy says Mobile never celebrated their original party on Mardi Gras day.
"Their Mardi Gras style parades were held on New Year's Eve until after the Civil War, where or Mardi Gras parade started in 1857."
Hardy says a French explorer was looking for the mouth of the Mississippi. When he sailed up river and stopped for the night, he realized what day it was and the tradition was born.
"French explorer (Pierre Le Moyne) d'Iberville landed 60 miles south of where New Orleans would be founded and it was Fat Tuesday back in France. So he named it Pointe Du Mardi Gras. And that certainly's not in Alabama."
Hardy says no one should be unduly upset about the claim being made by Alabama. Both have terrific celebrations. But when asked, he makes sure people know where the birthplace of Carnival Season is in America.
"They had it first, but we told them where to put it, basically on Fat Tuesday, not on New Year's."